Recently I found a couple of traditional but now rare Huarache styles, hidden away in Huaracheria Luz at the Mercado de Abastos in Oaxaca, owned by María Santiago Martínez and her husband.
Both are styles from the nearby Valles Centrales, but are rarely made nowadays. In fact you won’t find them for sale at the main Valles markets of Tlacolula and Ocotlan.
The Huarache “De Punta” with the traditional pointed toe that was typically worn by men in Etla, apparently no longer sells because locals now prefer less traditional styles.
The original “Oaxaca” Huarache is nowadays another a rarely made style due to it’s high weave count which makes it too expensive to sell at market retail. Worth noting is that the increasing cost of vegetable tanned leather has also contributed to raising Huarache prices.
Nestled into the Sierra Norte mountains of Oaxaca is the small town of Yalalag.
Yalalag is very precious town, not only for it’s strong Pre-Hispanic traditions, but also because like only a handful of other small towns in Mexico, most of the Yalalag population is still dedicated to the traditional craft of Huarache making.
Huaracheria Aquino is the largest ‘Taller’ workshop in Yalalag and they are well known for their high quality Zapotec Huaraches.
What also sets this family run business apart from most other Huarache makers in Mexico is that their crafting process begins at their in-house tannery, where they vegetable tan all their leathers to their precise specifications.
Huaracheria Aquino is famous for their traditional women’s Zapotec Yalalag sandals (the only existing traditional women’s leather sandal/huarache style in Mexico).
Photo of young Zapotec Woman in Mitla, by Guy Stresser-Péan, 1957
Their ‘Tejido’ Huarache also stands out for the fine attention to detail.
And the ‘Cincho Forado’ Huarache is the finest of its kind.
Interestingly the seemingly modern thermoplastic coated “Oscaria” leather which is very popular in this area of Mexico has been used for over 40 years.
Inside the Aquino ‘Taller’ workshop hangs a framed picture of the Aquino Great-grandfather and founder of Huaracheria Aquino.
It’s not uncommon for Huaracheros to still use lasts that are over 80 years old. The wooden lasts are made of Mesquite not only because it was once the most readily available material with which to make lasts, but because the Mesquite does not expand very much from contact with the wet leather.
Most Huaracheros still prefer using wooden lasts to plastic because they say there is reduced bounce when ‘asentando’ (hammering to flatten the leather upper to the last) .
To contact Huaracheria Aquino directly please visit their Facebook page, or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Inside the Mercado de Abastos there are a large variety of Huaraches and plenty of light to see all the crafted details.
Unlike the other markets in Oaxaca at the Mercado de Abastos you can also see Huaracheros making Huaraches. Most of the Huaracheros and Huaracherias have been here for over 40 years.
Most Oaxacan Huaraches have unique marking designs on the leather, this is called “Marcado”.
There were some interesting “Sachileno” Huaraches with 4 and 6 “Pasadas”.
Some elegant “Tejido” Huaraches.
Also a variety of “Cacles”, both fashion designs
And the traditional “Cacles” that are nowadays very hard to find anywhere in Mexico.
Miahuatlán is an important commercial center 2 hours west from Oaxaca. Market day is Monday and most of the town center is fills up with stalls. In Miahuatlán the cross-strap Huaraches are the most popular style. They are known as Huaraches ‘Acapulceños’, or Huaraches ‘Oaxaqueños’ and their price ranges from the 40 Pesos rubber Huarache ‘de campo’, to the 400 Pesos finely crafted variety.
Most men around Miahuatlán wear this leather Huarache version below.
There are also fashion styles like this Huarache made using Denim. Like Huaraches in Huetamo Michoacan, this is an interesting design direction by Senor Roberto the Huarachero, to attract new consumers.
And there are also crafted versions like this Huarache ‘con pelo’, made local Huarachero Senor Galdino, with a finely braided border detail.
The ‘Mixteca’ is a region of Central Mexico which spans across the states of Puebla, Oaxaca and Guerrero. Located in northwest Oaxaca and southwest Puebla is the lowland part of the region known as the ‘Mixteca Baja’, or ‘Tierra Caliente’. In the heart of which are the towns of Huajuapan de Leon and Acatlán de Osorio.
Having already posted on Huajuapan and the decline of the tanning and Huarache craft in a post titled Huaraches Nube Magazine Article. ‘La curtiduria en Huajuapan. Arte en el olvido’, I was familiar to the Oaxacan town by name. Outside the main market in Huajuapan I noticed that there are still a good number of surviving Huaracherias near the main market.
One of the local styles is the ‘Tejido con Pico’ Huarache.
The ‘Tejido con Pico’ differs from the ‘Tejido’ because it has an extra strap in the forefoot.
The most popular style in Huajuapan is the ‘Tres Hebillas’ Huarache, meaning ‘Three Buckles’. Chrome leather is still tanned in Huajuapan.
There is also the ‘Dos Hebillas’ Huarache.
The ‘Tres Vueltas’ Huarache is imported from Cuautla in the nearby state of Morelos. It is the same which is available in Guerrero. The ‘Tres Vueltas’ Huarache has no buckles and the end of the leather strip is simply finished.
The ‘Quatro Vueltas’ Huarache also from Cuautla, Morelos.
The ‘Playero’ Huarache.
A really nice design was the ‘Trabo’ Huarache also known as the ‘Dobliado’ Huarache from Southern Oaxaca.
The variety of ‘Pata de Gallo’ style Huaraches was greater in Oaxaca than I have noticed in the rest of Mexico.
From the Mercado Juarez in Oaxaca city.
From the Market in Juchitan on the Gulf of Tehuantepec.
Woven styles at the Mercado Juarez in Oaxaca City varied also, most had the signature pointed toe.
Below is the ‘Seis Pasadas’ design.
A ‘Cruzado’ woven Huarache with the signature pointed toe from the Tierra de Juarez.
Taking photos of Huaraches is usually a quick affair for me. Most sellers don’t understand why I want to take photos, some refuse and others watch dryly as I take photos, probably wondering why I’m not buying anything. I try and take the photos as quickly as possible in whatever light conditions available before the seller changes their mind. Sometimes sellers have stopped me taking photos and suspiciously warned me that there are quite a few lower priced Huarache fakes on the Mexican market imported from abroad.
Some ‘Cerrado’ Huaraches made on what looks like a Cowboy boot last.
The Sunday market in Tlacolula also had great variety in local Huarache styles and not all with the signature pointed toe.
Below is a Huarache sandal that seemed very popular with local women.
These Huaraches start as thick straps and finish as thin woven strips.
These Cacles are a very old design still being made near Tlacolula and probably introduced by the Spanish hundreds of years ago.
Further south in Oaxaca in Juchitan on the Isthmus of Tehuantepec most men wear this Huarache called ‘Banda’ made with thick Polyester webbing straps.
The ‘Banda’ Huarache is derived from the basic ‘Cruzado’ style also sold in the Municipal market in Juchitan
The State of Oaxaca is a large producer of Huaraches and many original designs. Probably the most famous are the ‘Cincho’ Huaraches that come in 3 versions; ‘Cincho’, ‘Dos Cinchos’ and ‘Tres Cinchos’. The ‘Cincho’ is essentially the same as the ‘Una, Dos, or Tres Correas’, as the design is know in the rest of Mexico. The main difference between the ‘Correa’ and the ‘Cincho’ Huaraches from the ‘Tierra de Juarez’ (Benito) is the pointed sole.
To find the largest selection of ‘Cincho’ Huaraches its probably best to go to one of the main ‘Valle Centrales’ Pueblo markets on market day. The following photos were taken in Tlacolula 40km south east of Oaxaca City on Sunday.
The ‘Cincho Forado’ is the lined version.
There is also a good selection of Huaraches at the Market at Octolan also. Below is an example of the ‘Dos Cinchos’.
For anyone not wanting to venture out into Oaxaca, there is a small market in the city center with many Huarache styles for sale. For me however the best made ‘Cincho’ Huarches were seen in Tlacolula. Below is an example of the ‘Tres Cinchos’ Huarache design for sale in Oaxaca City market.
Be warned that if you have wide feet the nature of the ‘Cinco’ constructions makes your foot even wider looking.
Tlacolula market also sold the ‘Pala’ Huarache is known for its top piece that is flat like a spade.
These very interesting designs are all asymmetrical.
The ‘Pala’ also has very original markings.